Los Angeles, specifically downtown, is a disorganized cacophony of sounds. It is the roar of ambulances, the chatter of students, and the ring of car horns. These are the sounds of a city that is alive with moving, accomplished people but for me, these sounds remind me that I should be rushing off to my next activity. They fuel the to-do list that sits in the back of my mind. The to-do list that tells me that instead of watching Netflix, I should be working on my assignments or contacting bands for work. When we arrive in Grand Isle, I hear the roar of the ocean crashing against the sand and small bugs clicking and buzzing in the distance. There are practically no helicopters. The cars drive lazily down the streets. No one is rushing. No one is checking their watch. It is finally quiet and soon I feel more calm than I have felt in years. I awake on our first morning, enjoy coffee on the veranda and write in a small journal I brought for the trip. I realize that during this trip I will be able to experience luxuries like taking time to deeply read The Awakening. In other courses at USC, I can never find the time to enjoy the book because I am too busy thinking about my assignments for classes like neuroscience or anthropology. At USC, I often find myself reading for the sake of completing a book, not for the sake of enjoying it. This experience makes me reconsider the purpose of college courses. I am not there for the sake of getting an A, I am there to learn.
Even better, I was able to live through similar experiences as the main character, Edna, in Kate Chopin's The Awakening. I was able to walk down the beach the way she did and step into the Gulf the way that she did. I could look at the view and see exactly what Kate Chopin hoped I’d be able to imagine in her vivid descriptions. Through her descriptions, Chopin is able to give the reader a clear idea of where the setting of The Awakening takes place, however, I imagine a lot would be lost if I was only able to read her descriptions. It is a phenomenal experience to be able to compare the words on the page to the view from our window. It makes Edna an even more real and relatable character. I understand and can connect with the relaxed, luxurious lifestyle that she engages in during her time in the Grand Isle. Even more than that, I understand why Grand Isle is a place of freedom that she continues to ruminate on and think about.
Finally, Grand Isle became a source of inspiration that freed my writer’s block. I have recently been having trouble connecting to characters and crafting stories that were interesting enough for me to dedicate my attention to them. In Los Angeles, I would find moments on a free Sunday morning to brainstorm but often, these ideas would be pushed to the side so that I could work on another task. By being in Grand Isle, my mind was free. I had the time and the space to really work through the ideas that had been lingering in the back of my head. Additionally, I was inspired by the environment. Grand Isle is different from any other city I have been to. The air is hot and thick with soft breezes that serve as relief. The Gulf stretches on for miles with oil rigs dotting the horizon. The cypress trees that are rooted on the swamp land look endless from the perspective of our swamp boat tour. By staying here, I begin to imagine what it could be like for my character to explore this area. I wonder what life could be like for her in the Grand Isle. Once we arrive in New Orleans, I purchase a small blue notebook and begin to write in a quaint coffee shop not too far from our hotel. It’s inspiring to be able to start my novel the same way that hundreds of other writers have begun theirs-in the heart of the crescent city.